INTRODUCTION TO ACUPUNCTURE & TRADITIONAL ASIAN MEDICINE
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
Acupuncture works by moving the natural energy of your body through twelve channels that connect your internal organs with your body’s surface. In ancient China this energy was called “Qi” (pronounced ‘chee’) and was ascribed many spiritual, emotional and physical powers. If Qi is abundant and flowing smoothly, then an individual enjoys good health. Pain and other physical and emotional disharmonies are the result of Qi being deficient or not flowing smoothly.
There are several different kinds of Qi and each can be likened to a kind of electricity that travels through the meridian system of the body. Pre-natal Qi is the Qi of Destiny. Its mission is to compel us to manifest our genetic and spiritual blueprint and it connects us to the metaphysical world. This is one of the reasons that acupuncture treatments feel so good.
During a treatment you may feel as if you’re having a transcendent experience or as if you are an embryo floating in the primordial womb. This is because when the pre-natal Qi is activated you are in touch with the metaphysical world; it is coursing through your body. And, because the meridian system is the communication system of the embryo, during a treatment you are an embryo again, that is nature before nurture. Your body is hearing and implementing its genetic message without interference from all that has passed since birth.
A very old interpretation of illness.
Imagine your body as cloud made up of gases instead of liquids. That is trillions of chemical reactions happening all the time. Science has proven that these reactions happen faster in the cells located by acupuncture points. Now imagine that instead of grouping those chemical reactions by the organ in the vicinity of where they happen, you instead divided them into Five Phases. These Five Phases are one of the most basic concepts of TCM. Each phase has a physical and emotional aspect and encompasses hundreds of symptoms that may or may not overlap with western organ or disease categories.
The Five Phases operate like a circuit, each one leading to the next. The images on this website describe the Five Phases. Understanding the interaction of the phases, especially which Phase is distressed, is the key to diagnosis, especially when practicing Japanese method acupuncture.
The Five Phases of Japanese Method Acupuncture – waterThe Five Phases of Japanese Method Acupuncture – woodThe Five Phases of Japanese Method Acupuncture – fireThe Five Phases of Japanese Method Acupuncture – earthThe Five Phases of Japanese Method Acupuncture
Energy Channels and Waterways
Qi flows in meridians.
The best analogy for the all the communication systems in the body – meridians, circulatory, hormonal, nervous – is that of the earth’s waterways. Water flows through oceans, rivers, swamps, brooks and tiny temporary channels the same way biological information flows through the meridians, nervous system, digestive system etc. The acupuncture meridians, also known as channels, are the most subtle of all the body’s waterways, comparable to vernal streams that only appear when full. Filling or draining these channels as necessary is the aim of the acupuncturist.
Like all waterways our bodies are under the guidance of the moon and susceptible to other natural phenomena. For this reason your acupuncturist may, particularly for menopausal women, time your treatment with the phases of the moon, or question you closely about how you feel during particular seasons.
Acupuncture diagnosis and the environment
A traditional Chinese diagnosis is very different from a western diagnosis. To the untrained ear it may sound more like a weather report than a medical condition. For instance your condition may be called “damp” or “stagnant.” This is because the ancient Chinese believed that the rules that govern the natural world also govern our bodies. Thus, they described bodily processes in environmental terms. The relationship between your body and the environment is one reason your acupuncturist may prescribe a seasonal tune-up.
The Black Box
Penetrating interview, painless insertion
By inserting sterile, disposable, hair-thin needles into specific points on the body, an acupuncturist regulates the meridians and restores good health. Although the insertions are simple (and painless!) the procedure for choosing the points is not. Your acupuncturist formulates a TCM diagnosis and treatment plan using information gathered during an extensive interview and drawing on years of clinical experience and academic training.
The ancient Chinese were remarkably adept at figuring out what was going on inside the “black box” of their patients’ bodies. As their heirs, our most important diagnostic tools are deep listening and careful observation. Today’s acupuncture diagnosis is based on what, during an extensive interview, you tell your acupuncturist about your health; the quality, shape, size and speed of your pulse, what the acupuncturist sees when she looks at you and what she feels when she palpates your abdomen.
A Healing History
Traditional Chinese Medicine, also known at Traditional Asian Medicine, was born in China as herbology and acupuncture. In China the categories of herbology were grafted onto the parallel system of acupuncture in a way that doesn’t do acupuncture justice, in spite of their common heritage. Both methodologies migrated around Asia and were the dominant healing method for hundreds of years. During the modern era in Japan western medicine predominated and included acupuncture. Herbology fell out of favor but acupuncture grew and flourished. As a result herbology is much more developed in China than in other countries and the acupuncture practiced in Japan has more in common with science than Chinese style acupuncture. This is primarily because of the work of Yoshio Manaka, MD.
Increasing Effectiveness of Acupuncture
Moxa is one of several adjunct modalities that help make an acupuncture treatment more effective. Moxa wool, made of dried Mugwort leaves (Artemisia Vulgaris) is burned either above the skin, on the head of the needle, or directly on the skin over a layer of ointment. When burned, moxa produces an intense dry heat that moves your Qi and warms your body. Moxa is especially useful if you always feel cold or if your condition worsens in cold weather.
What happens during a treatment
There are over 400 known acupuncture points, each with its own unique effect on Qi and overall health. The most frequently used points are located below the knees and elbows. When the needles are inserted most patients feel a very small pinch, less than a mosquito bite, followed by a sensation of warmth or heaviness. That sensation is the Qi waking up and traveling through the channels to the affected area. Once the needles are inserted they remain in place for 10 to 30 minutes. During this time most patients are pleased to find that they become deeply relaxed.
Compelled by the positive results experienced by thousands of patients, modern science is coming closer to defining Qi as a pathway where chemical reactions occur faster than in other parts of the body. Ask your acupuncturist for copies of articles describing how magnetic resonance imagining (MRI) has traced the path of Qi. Or better yet, come in and experience it yourself.
Read our FAQ’s for additional information – or contact us to discuss treatments and/or schedule an appointment.